Bypass could keep out the terrorists

RICHARD BATSON Security chiefs are considering an option of building a bypass around Norfolk's giant gas terminal in a bid to make it a no-go zone for terrorists. The Bacton complex is a vital hub in the national power grid, handling about a third of the nation's gas supplies, which also makes it a key target for terrorism.

RICHARD BATSON

Security chiefs are considering an option of building a bypass around Norfolk's giant gas terminal in a bid to make it a no-go zone for terrorists.

The Bacton complex is a vital hub in the national power grid, handling about a third of the nation's gas supplies, which also makes it a key target for terrorism.

But a busy coast road running right through the middle means the public can travel within yards of a highly explosive mix of gas, pipework and compressors, whose damage or destruction could play havoc with the country's energy network, as well as local homes and businesses.

Now, the EDP can exclusively reveal, there are tentative moves to look at building a new road to take traffic away from the site.

And, under proposed changes to national terrorism laws, gas companies would be asked to pick up the road-building bill, running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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It comes just months after extra armed police were drafted in to the area in a bid to stiffen protection against a widespread growing terrorism threat.

Home Office officials last night said they could not discuss matters of national security, but at the time of the policing boost denied it was the result of any specific security threat against Bacton. But they said the general terrorism threat to Britain was still “severe” and it was important to protect “assets and infrastructure”.

Last year it was revealed that the gas site was being targeted by known Al Qaida terrorists, and that plans of the complex were found on the laptop computer of an arrested suspect.

Last night, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the idea of a road diversion had been flagged up as a possibility by Home Office Tony McNulty minister and Norfolk's chief constable Ian McPherson.

Mr Lamb has welcomed the idea, but is seeking assurances that the homes and businesses of residents would not be affected by any new road.

One caravan park owner says the loss of passing trade could spell disaster for the local tourism industry by taking away passing trade vital to holiday parks and pubs.

Possible changes to the Terrorism Bill were also looking to get energy operators to pay for such measures, as well as policing, which would save the highways scheme falling on to a cash-strapped county council.

“Things are at a very early stage, but it does appear to be a possibility,” said Mr Lamb. “In security terms it makes sense. Having a road through the middle of a site so important to the area and the nation seems ridiculous.

“But we also need to look at the needs of the local residents and consult with them fully.”

He also felt there was a case for the “very profitable” gas companies to pay for any road, and has asked for further briefings to find out more about the idea and the impact on local people.

Richard Hollis, co-owner of the Castaways caravan site next to the terminal said: “If they shut the road, it will kill off Bacton as a tourist destination.”

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